Posted by Alison Arthur on 18 Apr 2019
At CS Week 2019, we connected with a diverse group of utility companies all interested in delivering the best electronic billing and payments experience possible. In addition to the insightful conversations at our booth, we also attended sessions dedicated to the latest customer service trends in the utilities space. Here are four key themes we heard throughout the show.
Several sessions discussed emerging bill payment channels like smart speakers (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, etc.), Facebook Messenger, and text messaging. As customer demographics shift to include more Millennials and members of Generation Z, utility companies are acutely aware of the need to facilitate billing and payments in the channels their customers use most. They are actively seeking solutions that facilitate a payment experience commensurate with what their customers receive from other service providers and retailers.
AI and ML have many powerful applications for utilities. A recurring theme was leveraging the technology to predict whether customers would pay their bills on time or miss their due dates. These predictions can help customer support teams devise proactive approaches to help prevent missed payments.
Another application is the ability to analyze usage patterns. In doing so, utilities can identify ways for customers to adjust their consumption habits and save money on their utility costs. Finally, AI and ML can help identify utility theft, giving utilities the potential to save on costly operational expenses incurred for lost services.
In several of the sessions, utilities spoke of the continued reliance on phone-based payments. In fact, one presenter conveyed that 45% of their utility’s card payments were called in over the phone. While phone interactions are an important part of the customer experience, they also present an opportunity to move customers toward digital channels to deliver on-demand payment experiences that can save utilities time and money.
One speaker put it simply – most customers don’t want to interact with their utility providers. Another cited that the average customer only thinks about their utility 11 minutes per year. While many customers may be averse to direct communication with their utility, they may also be missing out on important account information and ways to save on their utility bills.
Utilities are tackling this problem by incorporating self-service chatbot technology into their websites to help answer common billing and payments inquiries, report outages, and more. One utility is also delivering videos that are personalized for each customer and include high-level account/billing information, usage patterns, and ways to save on their utility usage. These videos help answer questions proactively while also delivering a highly customized experience built with each customer in mind.